14/04/2024

The Matildas' shock Asian Cup exit has left a lot of questions around the national team set up. (Photo: Matildas)

After their shock exit from the Asian Cup, Michelle Heyman has criticised the 'pathetic' preparation the Matildas were given.

A-League Women veteran Michelle Heyman has criticised the lack of preparation and consistency for Tony Gustavsson’s Matildas side after their shock 1-0 exit from the AFC Women’s Asian Cup.

With 61 caps and 20 goals to her name, Heyman was no stranger to national team turmoil in her stint.

In her time in the national squad, she witnessed three coaching changes, going from Tom Sermanni to Hesterine de Reus to Alen Stajcic in the span of two years.

And while the Matildas advanced past the group stages without a loss, it was their earliest Asian Cup exit ever, after coming no lower than fourth previously.

Australia has won the Asian Cup, in 2010, while finishing runner-up to Japan in 2014 and 2018.

But the star Aussie striker has pointed to the preparation the players underwent before the Cup as one of the reasons for the early knockout.

“I think we had a one week training camp, which I think is a bit pathetic to be honest. I remember every tournament I’ve ever been in with the Matildas, we were always away for a month or two months training together,” Heyman told media on Tuesday.

“Even the preparation for the Asian Cup, for all the Matildas the biggest thing is we’re not getting that time together before going into competitions.

“I really feel for the girls. I feel like they’re not getting the right preparation to be successful right now, so I think that’s the biggest frustration you can see within some of the players.”

As the international window opened, the Matildas took to Dubai on January 10 to begin their training.

This began just 11 days out from their first up match against Indonesia on January 21. While that resulted in a 18-0 drubbing, it gave the squad only two weeks to build chemistry together.

In a group that consisted of the likes of Charlotte Grant (three caps), Holly McNamara (no caps), Remy Siemsen (two caps), Cortnee Vine (no caps), and Clare Wheeler (five caps), Heyman believes that extra time would have crucial.

“Not knowing who Tony’s [Gustvasson] going to bring in, I feel like every time the Matildas get together it’s always a new team. I think a lot of players are missing out potentially who should be there potentially,” she continued.

“I take my hat off to the girls that have been working as hard as possible and trying, it hasn’t been an easy time getting new coaches constantly. I feel for them, it just doesn’t feel like there’s any [consistency] within that team, so I really understand their frustration.

“I don’t understand why there hasn’t been any national team camps during this season. The girls are here, they have the assistant coach within Australia, so why aren’t we running more programs for the Australian based players to train together, to see that type of environment?

“The better players you play with, the better you feel. It’s just a different level walking into the Matildas from the A-Leagues, it’s still a big stepping stone.

“We definitely need to be having more camps here in Australia for the Australian based players, and more preparation. We can’t go into a World Cup the way we went into that tournament.”

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Heyman criticised coach Gustavsson for inconsistent team selection, and a lacking of scouting within Australia.

“Criticise me for what I could have done better because that’s what the game is about,” Gustvasson said after the loss to South Korea.

“I’ve been around the game long enough for two decades to know it’s not going to be on me now and I take full ownership of that.”

With COVID playing a factor, Gustavsson has been unable to be based out of Australia, unable to watch home-grown talent play live.

It’s leaving Heyman and many disappointed in comparison to former national team managers.

“Hopefully Tony comes back to Australia and actually starts to watch some of the games, and be there in person to actually scout players,” she said.

“We haven’t seen him in Australia, and that’s something that’s quite different that we’ve never had ever with a national team coach. I know COVID has made things quite difficult, but there’s a lot of things that we need to change.

“Having our national team coach in Australia might actually help to see what players he’s missing out on. There’s a handful coming through that are just not getting the opportunity.

“What you’re really missing out on is all of the girls based in Australia, who are putting in the hard work, who are trying their hardest to be selected for the Matildas, but it’s a bit difficult if you’re not having your national team coach watching you and scouting you.

“Tommy [Sermanni] does it still, he’s still at most games, and he was always there for New Zealand as well from last season. Alen Stajcic was always at games, everyone who’s a part of the national team has always come out and watched the W-League back then.

“It’s something that we’re missing out on. Watching games back, I know that’s how he’s scouting players, it’s just not the same. You miss out a lot on what they’re actually doing off the ball, the TV’s not paying attention to the player away from the ball.”

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